Last month we turned our attention to the Kharadron Overlords, joined by Alex and Julien as they gave us their top tips for dealing with this dominant force on the field of battle. However, something we didn’t expect was the amount of interest that multiple small unit (or MSU for short) armies would get as a result of their advice! Rather than answering all these individually, we thought we’d get Steve to go out and scour the Mortal Realms to see what he could learn about playing this dynamic and agile style of army…
Steve: Hi Luke, and welcome to the third instalment of Metawatch. A lot of UK tournament attendees will know who you are, as well as viewers of the WargamerOnline channel on YouTube, but for the rest of the world can you give us a quick bit of background about what drew you to playing Age of Sigmar?
Luke: Hey Steve, thanks for having me on. I’ve been a huge Warhammer fan since Warhammer Fantasy Battles, but I really only started to pick up Age of Sigmar at the start of 2019 when I saw how popular the tournament scene in the UK had become. I’d been on a break from playing seriously before then, but the increase in events and the release of the Idoneth Deepkin started to draw me back into the game.
Since then I’ve really got the bug back, and I spent the start of the year preparing my army and building my skill level up again. I wanted to attend the Facehammer GT in September of 2019, which was going to my first event since winning the SouthCoast GT in 2015!
Steve: That’s a serious amount of time away from tournament gaming. What sort of preparation did you do, and how did you find the Facehammer GT after a fairly long break?
Luke: I knew I wanted to play the Idoneth, and I also had a great idea for the look of the army that combined Deepkin models with Nighthaunt (my other favourite range). I bought everything and, alongside the converting and painting, I started playing games to understand how the army played.
I started with a lot of Namarti Thralls and Reavers, but as I carried on playing I gradually moved towards a build that centred around Morrsarr Guard. One tip that I think is valuable is to play – and lose – a lot of practice games because they help you learn quickly. That way you can hopefully do your winning at an event!
As for the event itself, I thought it was great. There were lots of new people that I got to play, as well as some old friends who were around in my Warhammer Fantasy Battle days. I think I was fortunate that the army I liked the look of also favoured the way I like to play the game, which is utilising multiple small units. I believe MSU builds can give you a real advantage if you understand how to play them correctly, which I think is why I did well at the event.*
Steve: You often have some unique list ideas. What’s your philosophy behind designing armies?
Luke: I like to build lists that are based on units that are fast. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they have high movement, although that helps! It also includes units that can enter play after the battle begins, have a range of deployment options so they don’t always have to start in my deployment zone, or can move in other phases of the game. All of these help with board control, which I consider to be important.
Steve: The Idoneth list you ran throughout 2019 and 2020 wasn’t reliant on going first, which is something a lot of players value in Age of Sigmar. Instead, it was built around lots of minimum-sized units. Do you think there is strength in this list-building style?
Luke: Morrsarr Guard are very fast, and they fly, so you can get into important areas easily. Another key to the Idoneth list is the Finder of Ways ability of the Isharann Soulscryer, which allows several units to deploy near a board edge at the end of your movement phase. The Soulscryer also provides a bonus to charging. Being able to keep some units off the board in the first turn with a high-drop list forces your opponent to make a decision about what to do. No matter what they decide to do they have to think about where the Soulscryer might appear.
When you run an MSU army you can swarm the board, which allows you to control where your opponent can move, where they can appear if they have deployment options that allow them to start off the board, and importantly you can feed units to your opponent to set up your own charges later in the game.
Having a lot of units also gives you a degree of control when it comes to decision making. For example, you can ‘tag’ a unit on the charge to prevent it moving and limit how it piles in. If you’re clever you can also get behind enemy lines and pile in to units that your opponent thought they had protected, as well as forcing your opponent into making pile-in moves away from objectives they control.
The flying Morrsarr Guard allow you to charge over the top of a small screening unit, which you can then remove using their Biovoltaic Blast ability, and pile in to units your opponent was trying to stop you from getting at.
Steve: You often run spam** lists. I wanted to ask why?
Luke: These are often polarising lists! Some people love them, but some people really don’t!
For me, it opens up some interesting options. In the Idoneth list, having multiple eels gives me flexibility – I’m not running one super-powerful unit of nine, as this can only hit one place at a time. Instead, I can pick multiple fights and charge units in interesting ways using the minimum-sized units of three.
Another example I can offer is with Nighhaunt. I’m currently working on a list that uses multiple units of two Chainghasts. The army itself has 24 units, meaning I can keep 12 in reserve with From The Underworlds They Come. When it comes to the charge phase, I then have multiple opportunities to roll 10s on the charge, which allows the Nighthaunt to fight in the charge phase and again in the fight phase. The Ethereal rule also makes the army much more effective.
Combined with big units of Chainrasps, you can really deny space for your opponent, meaning they have to fight through your army while you can control the objectives.
Steve: We’ll have to dig into the Nighthaunt in the future, I think! You’ve also provided us with an Idoneth Deepkin list that utilises the ideas you’ve spoken about. Can you tell us a little bit about it and why you think it can be successful?
Luke: First of all, I’ve gone with Dhom-hain as my enclave. Warhammer Age of Sigmar is a very visual game, and a lot of players can’t resist taking Monsters (usually because they look so cool!), so gaining an ability that allows you to re-roll wounds against them, and 1s against any enemy when you charge, is fab. Also, there are a lot of powerful Heroes that are Monsters, so receiving benefits against them can really help swing a fight your way.
Morrsarr Guard can take out a Terrorgheist if they can attack it after charging, and with this list you always have to be charging! If players hit you first then you can get into trouble. It’s always worth sacrificing some eels if it means that you can set up charges for your units in following turns.
Volturnos is in the list to combat armies that can put out a lot of magic, especially magic missiles. Equipped with Cealith, the High King’s Shield, I can throw him forward against magic-focussed armies and threaten spell casters.
The Eidolon of Mathlann is a new choice since Broken Realms: Morathi was released. Surrounded by the Cloud of Midnight he is almost invulnerable for a turn. He can protect my units, gives out a large bubble adding 1 to wound rolls, and is quite fast himself.
Taking him helps out with some of the new battleplans which now favour Leaders more.
I’ve always liked to include cheap allies in lists. This one includes Aetherwings, but I’ve also used Khinerai Heartrenders, and even a Fleetmaster. I like to run them onto objectives early on, as it again forces my opponent to decide if they should kill them to stop them scoring, but if they do that they are losing out on an opportunity to shoot the Morrsarr Guard (and facing the threat of a counter-charge).
It’s important to realise the Idoneth Deepkin’s Forgotten Nightmare ability benefits from allies as well, so you can deploy a cheap allied unit out in front to stop your more valuable eels from getting shot.
Steve: What things can make the game hard for an Idoneth Deepkin player?
Luke: In my experience, the Idoneth eels list can struggle against armies that put out a lot of long-range magic that does heavy damage, so Disciples of Tzeentch can be tricky, especially if they also utilise the Host Duplicitous ability Ranks of Mischievous Mirage so you can’t retreat. You also have to spread out against spells that affect areas of the board, which makes Lord Kroak and Teclis particularly fearsome opponents.
Armies with a large model count can be tough opponents, especially if they can also return models. Two armies that are considered by some to be weaker in the meta are Gloomspite Gitz and Legions of Nagash, but if you play against either of these it can be really hard to win. However, this is where the tournament environment can help you, as these armies are not played as much currently, and if you are doing well you are less likely to play against them, particularly in later rounds. If you do play against them, it’s best to try and engineer charges that allow you to get to Heroes by utilising the pile-in rules or shocking them.
What a great deep dive into the art of playing an MSU army. Thanks, Luke! If you have any ideas of great MSU lists you have written, or cunning ploys to defeat them, we’d love to see them in the comments on the Warhammer Age of Sigmar Facebook page. Next month, we’ll be returning to the 41st Millennium for more great insights into the meta of Warhammer 40,000 with Mike Brandt.
* Luke actually went 5-0 at the event, taking first place as well as scooping up the Judges’ Choice for Best Painted army. Not bad for his first event back
** It turns out spam is much more than a delicious pork-based meat product. In Warhammer, it refers to armies that utilise loads of one type of unit that’s usually (although not always) considered to be very good relative to the points cost.